Congress gets DOJ inspector general’s critical report on FBI’s McCabe
The Department of Justice’s inspector general on Friday sent to Congress a report sharply criticizing former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe for unauthorized disclosures to the media ahead of the 2016 election and lacking candor with investigators, including then-FBI Director James Comey.
The report from department’s internal watchdog formed the basis of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ firing of McCabe last month, less than 48 hours before his scheduled retirement, a decision that pleased President Donald Trump and White House allies who have long portrayed McCabe as compromised by anti-Trump bias.
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The report revealed sharply different recollections of the episode by McCabe and Comey — and suggested McCabe misled Comey about it. And it also suggests Inspector General Michael Horowitz found Comey’s account to be more credible. Yet Trump, who’s mounting a public effort to undermine Comey ahead of the former FBI director’s book publicity tour, used the findings of the report to suggest Comey and McCabe were indistinguishable.
“DOJ just issued the McCabe report — which is a total disaster,” Trump tweeted shortly after the report came out. “He LIED! LIED! LIED! McCabe was totally controlled by Comey — McCabe is Comey!! No collusion, all made up by this den of thieves and lowlifes!”
Despite his embrace of the report, Trump swiped at Horowitz just six weeks earlier, wondering on Twitter whether he was an “Obama guy.”
The IG’s report has long been expected to emerge this month, but its release on Friday — as Trump lambastes Comey as an “untruthful slime ball” — further complicates the tempest that’s been building since the election between the president and the Justice Department officials overseeing a Russia investigation that’s edged deep inside Trump’s inner circle.
Among the IG report’s findings is that McCabe was less than forthcoming with Comey about his October 2016 authorization of two FBI officials to disclose information to a Wall Street Journal reporter working on an article about FBI investigations involving Hillary Clinton.
“During a conversation “shortly after the WSJ article was published,” the IG report states, “McCabe lacked candor when he told Comey, or made statements that led Comey to believe, that McCabe had not authorized the disclosure and did not know who did.”
The report also delves into corroborating evidence that led their investigators to believe Comey over McCabe, who has acknowledged that he approved the media disclosure and asserted that he was authorized to do so. And it noted that McCabe had a sharp reply to the suggestion that Comey’s account was more believable.
“In a letter submitted by McCabe’s counsel after reviewing a draft of this report, McCabe argues that ‘the OIG should credit Mr. McCabe’s account over Director Comey’s’ and complains that the report ‘paints Director Comey as a white knight carefully guarding FBI information, while overlooking that Mr. McCabe’s account is more credible,’” the report indicated.
Comey lauded McCabe when his former No. 2 went on leave in January amid a growing torrent of criticism from Trump, tweeting that McCabe “stood tall over the last 8 months, when small people were trying to tear down an institution we all depend on.”
The former FBI director, fired by Trump last year, can be expected to field questions about the IG report during a national media tour to promote his new book, which takes sharp aim at the president and has rattled Trump anew. But at a time when Republicans have gone so far as to open the website http://lyincomey.com to undercut Comey, the IG report essentially sides with his version of events.
The media disclosure at issue included details of a conversation between McCabe and Matt Axelrod, then a top Justice Department official in the Obama administration, in which McCabe recalled resisting pressure to shut down a Clinton Foundation inquiry in the runup to the election.
McCabe told POLITICO in an interview last month that he approved disclosure of that information to counter the reporter’s narrative that the FBI was bowing to political concerns.
“It was important to me that we not be perceived as an organization that had lost our independence, or was subjected, was vulnerable to political influence from the department or anybody else,” McCabe said.
But the inspector general concluded that McCabe’s decision to authorize sharing the details of that conversation about an ongoing investigation was itself improper. McCabe’s disclosure failed to meet Justice’s “public interest” standard, the inspector general found, and instead took “in a manner designed to advance his personal interests at the expense of Department leadership.”
Republicans hailed the report as evidence that Sessions made the right call when he fired McCabe hours before his retirement.